As most of you know, I was lucky enough to spend Thursday afternoon watching the O's beat the Cubs 11-4 at Wrigley Field. It was my second game in five days, having just watched the O's take on the Brewers Sunday in Milwaukee. Fortunately for me, Thursday's game had a happier ending.
I have a different history with the Chicago Cubs than I do with the Brewers. Like some of you, I spent many an afternoon watching the Cubs on WGN growing up, so I always had more familiarity with the team than with other National League teams, most of which I barely pay attention to. In addition to the WGN connection, I also have Cub fans in the family. A number of aunts, uncles, and cousins live in Chicagoland and have been die hard Cubs fans since birth. My stepfather grew up on the north side of Chicago and I've spent more than a few days listening to him talk about Cubs teams past. My brother has lived in Chicago since 2003 and tried to make the Cubs his second team given our family connections, but has actually begun following the White Sox a bit since he couldn't quite get used to NL ball.
I was in Chicago for nearly a week, and when I'm there I like to make my brother do touristy things with me. During the week I noticed something going on in Chicago. There was a lot of orange around town. I spent all day Monday at my aunt and uncle's house in the 'burbs, but early Tuesday we went downtown to go on the greatly anticipated Gangster Tour. Standing on the corner waiting for the tour bus, I see walking before me four people dressed in orange. I was shocked. Four guys, three O's hats, 2 Adam Jones t-shirts, a Markakis t-shirt, and an orange polo with the bird on the breast. Not ten minutes later we're on the tour bus and just a few rows ahead of us sat two guys in O's hats. After the tour I dragged my brother to Michigan Avenue where we saw two more groups of people dressed in their O's gear. The next day, sitting at a red light, another group of Orioles fans crossed the street right in front of us. My brother joked, "I haven't seen this many O's fans in one week since the 90s."
Finally game day arrived. We took the bus from my brother's neighborhood and as we approached Wrigley Field, we passed a coffee shop that appeared to be completely filled with Orioles fans. As we got closer, we saw even more O's fans mixed in with the thousands of Cubs fans crowded around the stadium. I was really in shock. There were a few O's fans in Milwaukee, but nothing like this. It got me super excited.
Our seats were in the upper deck between home plate and third. Quite good seats, really. I had been bummed they were in the upper deck, but from our perch we had a great view of the entire field. Wrigley Field really is beautiful. I've been there a few times and I always think so. I love looking out at the city beyond center field, I love the old scoreboard, I love it all. It's cliche, but it does sort of take you back to another time, especially when compared to Miller Park with its steel facade and home run pump.
With our view from the upper deck it was easy to pick out the groups of O's fans sprinkled throughout Wrigley Field. The largest patches of orange appeared to be in the bleachers, where instead of 1 or 2 orange shirts, there were groups of O's fans clustered together in multiple places. In the lower deck there appeared to be couples in orange scattered throughout. Don't get me wrong, this was no Oriole Invasion. This wasn't the Red Sox in Baltimore. But it was definitely more than I was expecting. It made me feel proud of our fans.
The game itself was quite a pleasant surprise. When the O's won the first game, I actually thought to myself, "Damn. Guess we'll see a loss." Not much faith in our team, I'm sorry to say. Luckily the boys didn't share in my lack of faith because they gave a solid butt kicking to the National League's best team.
After the game we joined the many heading out to the nearby bars. The concentration of Orioles fans seemed even greater out on the street, perhaps because so many Cubs fans had left in the 7th and 8th innings. Or maybe it was because the O's fans were so happy. Strangers felt like friends because they were in orange.
All in all, Thursday's game was the perfect end to my vacation. The Cubs are probably headed to the playoffs and the Orioles are probably headed to another losing season. But on that one day I got to see the Orioles kick some ass and win a series against a first place team. It made it easy to imagine a time in the future when the O's are the favorites and Camden Yards is as packed as Wrigley on Thursday.